The FDA has released a new report on egg farms it inspected in 2011. They found violations of egg safety rules used to prevent Salmonella contamination on 40% of the inspected farms, but only 3% of the issues were serious enough for the agency to take action.
Last year, the agency inspected 555 egg laying farms. On 14 of those farms, or 2.7%, inspectors found “egregious” problems that called for an official response, such as an FDA warning letter. An additional 195 inspections, or 37.9%, found “significant deficiencies” the agency thinks farmers should be able to correct by themselves.
The problems include the following: lack of a written Salmonella enteritidis prevention plan; failure to test for S. enteritidis during required time periods; failure to divert or test eggs after a positive environmental sample; failure to implement the S. enteritidis prevention plan, Failure to maintain required records; and failure to monitor conditions required for the plan implementation.
The agency has developed a risk-based approach to farm inspections. The farms they choose to inspect meet several criteria, including registration status, consumer complaints, any previous product recalls, and the number of laying hens. The 50 highest-risk farms also underwent environmental sampling by inspectors.
Salmonella can be found on both the inside and outside of eggs, so eating them raw or undercooked can cause illness. Eggs cooked until the whites are set but the yolks runny, as in many cookbooks and food magazines, can and have caused illness. In fact, in 2010, there was a large nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis infections associated with shell eggs from Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa and Hillandale Farms of Iowa. More than 1,900 people were sickened in that outbreak.